Book Review

Title: Shifting into 4WD - The SUV Owner's 4WD Handbook
Author: Harry Lewellyn
Year of Publication: 2001


Bruce’s Review:

Pretty good book packed with driving tips for novice through advanced off-highway driving. Interesting discussions of “old husband tales” that give well-reasoned debunking of some of the driving tips that are repeated over and over in other sources. Heavy emphasis on environmental ethics and safety that can be summed up as “abuse it and lose it” and “don’t get hurt,” respectively. No photos, but lots of cartoons. Topics are broken into short sections of usually less than ten paragraphs for us attention-deficit readers, which coincidentally makes for good bathroom reading.

What others say (selected passages):

The first 3 chapters (and the last one, too!) are all about safety precautions and how to prepare for your trip off-road. We all (beginners and experts alike) need to be reminded of such basics on occasion, and chances are you will find at least one great tip that you haven’t tried before.

The “good stuff” begins in Chapter 4. The pages are FILLED with literally hundreds of off-road tips. They provide the perfect launching pad for beginner 4-wheelers.

The chapter entitled “Terrain and Obstacles” is my favorite. Here is where Lewellyn includes some of the most useful insider secrets and little-known tricks for maneuvering through a variety of terrain and off-road situations (like losing traction, backing down hills, etc.). He goes above and beyond the call of duty in describing things such as how to maneuver your way out of some lesser-known off-road conditions such as “deep vees”, “washboards”, and other types of bumps, dips and inclines, including how to “shark” the road and “dither” in sand.

And the best part: He perfectly explains many of the lesser-known terms used in 4-wheeling today, and describes in step-by-step format how to perform many different 4WD maneuvers while using easy-to-understand terminology, and even graphics.

He has an environmentally conscious attitude about 4-wheeling, and goes to great lengths to note the importance of preserving the lands that we ride on.

This handbook is designed to be a constant trailside companion regardless of your experience level. It presents field-tested, experience-based methods and techniques for using your 4WD SUV, truck or Jeep off highway. With safety in mind, and Mother Nature never forgotten, SHIFTING INTO 4WD covers how 4WD works, driving different terrain, making field repairs and getting unstuck. It offers numerous lists and, with an incredible index that conforms to your style of thinking, it steers you to the exact concept you're looking for. And if all else fails, it offers basic survival hints that will help you enjoy waiting for help to arrive.

A couple of things got annoying. There are 4-5 pages of "How to pack a cooler" which will leave you wondering "why did i just read that?" and many many references about "Volume 2". I will buy that one when it comes out.

It's directed towards people who want to get the most out of their SUV. It is NOT aimed at people who plan to spend thousands of dollars building the ultimate rock-crawler rig. Lewellyn's advice is always sensible, with an emphasis on safe technique. I enjoy his light, clear writing style, and the illustrations are entertaining and informative. I like the way Lewellyn analyzes and demolishes "old husband's tales": widely-held but misguided views. My only complaint is that there are frequent references to "volume 2", which apparently hasn't been published yet.

The Definitive Off-Road Handbook that should be read and in everyone's glove box, bought for daughters, sons, granddaughters,grandsons, cousins, nephews, uncles, brothers, fathers, wives, girlfriends, buddies, rangers, deputy sheriff's, linemen, fishermen, photographers, rock hounds, hunters, rock- climbers,cattlemen, ranchers, foresters, miners, desert rats, adventurers, the retired, the American people who love and respect America's great outdoors. Insightful, wry discourse about understanding & using off-road vehicles as they were originally built & intended to be used; safely, carefully; blending humor, physics, gears, tires, traction, torque, angles, weight& balance, with common sense that only comes from long experience in deep deserts of the Southwest and its high mountain ranges. This kind of knowledge needs to be aquired, considered & passed on ...thanks for listening.

Shifting into 4WD - The SUV Owner's 4WD Handbook sets a new standard with its well-organized and comprehensive index. Since handbooks are by nature rarely read while seated comfortably in front of a fireplace, it's fantastic when a book is designed to provide the information you need when you're in a precarious spot. Lewellyn's user-friendly index will actually help you get home (or at least back to pavement) the next time you feel an odd vibration in your rear tires after hitting a rock during a stream crossing.
Anyone who has ever slipped an SUV into 4-WD will recognize his own experiences in the often humorous war stories the Silver Coyote shares in this book-you won't want to miss his "dust management" techniques and secrets for driving on washboard. I can't wait to get back in my rig and try some of the tips on power management and driving in tough conditions. The section on "How it Works" was one of the best explanations I have ever read about transmissions and limited-slip differentials. Llewellyn also provides expedition-tested lists of items to bring on off-highway adventures.
In addition to teaching techniques and procedures for traveling safely off-highway, Lewellyn presents an eloquent case for environmentally responsible behavior and trail etiquette for all users of back-country roads and trails. The only criticism I have of the book is that there may be too many references to advanced techniques to be found in the not-yet-published Volume 2.